Missouri’s General Assembly is in session. Still.
You’re forgiven if you’ve missed this news item. Gov. Eric Greitens announced a special session on June 7, and lawmakers gathered June 12 to debate abortion-related legislation. They’re still at it.
Missourians know the call was unnecessary to begin with. The abortion debate could have been settled during the regular session; failing that, the issue could have waited until next year.
But the governor’s ambition cannot wait, so he summoned legislators back to Jefferson City, in a move that was more about headlines than headway.
To be fair, criticism of Greitens’ call seems like ancient history now. Instead, Missourians are entitled to ask: What’s taking so long?
Politics, of course. In June, the state Senate passed a measure toughening several abortion regulations, including annual unannounced inspections of abortion clinics and whistle-blower protections for health workers. It also gave the state attorney general limited authority to prosecute abortion cases.
That wasn’t enough for the House, which tacked on even tougher rules in the legislation it passed. Both bills also waded into the controversy over an abortion-related discrimination ordinance in St. Louis.
Then everyone went home for the Fourth of July holiday.
Now they’re back — or they could be. As it turns out, the state Senate isn’t expected to take up the tougher House bill until July 24 at the earliest. If the Senate makes any changes, the bill would have to go back to the House — and then would need Greitens’ signature to become law.
That means it’s likely the General Assembly won’t finish its work until early August, nearly two months after the governor’s original call.
No one has any idea exactly how much this is costing taxpayers.
We’re not downplaying the importance of abortion legislation in Missouri. But it isn’t too much to ask that this contentious issue be dealt with during the regular session. If supporters of tougher rules fall short, they can try again the following session.
Greitens should be leading this parade. He just spent a week chopping $250 million from the state budget, including spending for sick and elderly Missourians. “Politicians were trying to spend money we don’t have,” he said.
It’s a blot on the record of every politician involved in this slow-moving, summerlong fiasco.
This editorial originally contained an incorrect estimate of the cost of the special section.